The latest experiment in free speech on campus didn’t work out well at Vermont’s Middlebury College where a speaker was shouted down and physically accosted because his subject matter was not in the zone of the acceptable. “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away” shouted the students. They followed up by their judgment on the man before he even spoke. “Your message is hatred. We cannot tolerate it.” Similar instances in the last few months occurred to different speakers at the University of California at Berkley and at New York University.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet said that “the time is out of joint.” That can certainly be said of our day. There was once a time when universities prided themselves in being places for a free and open discussion of ideas, but that seems to be gone. This new speech code is not confined to universities.
Within the last several days two street preachers were convicted and fined for the crime in England of declaring in public that Jesus is the only way to God. Here is part of the argument of the prosecutor: “To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”
Consider where this puts a Christian who takes the Bible seriously. The scriptures quote Jesus as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). They also quote Peter’s message when he declared of Jesus, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
This is unambiguous. The Bible states that Jesus is the only way to God. To be faithful to the Christian gospel, one must declare what John 3:16 states, that belief in God’s Son is the way to avoid perishing. But to be acceptable to contemporary magistrates, that message must be squelched. In these times, it is tantamount to hatred to say sinners need to be saved.
This brings up another interesting Bible passage from the law. “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Lev. 19:17). In the Biblical way of thinking, it is hatred to ignore another’s sin by withholding a rebuke for wrong actions. In other words, to tolerate sin is hatred. To rebuke is to show love.
The New Testament states it like this: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love…(Eph. 4:14,15a). It is the loving thing to speak the truth and point out the deception that will lead to eternal ruin. But in these “out of joint” times love is considered to be hate.
This is not new. When Paul gave his testimony at Jerusalem, relating his calling to go to the whole world with the message of salvation, the people said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22b). Paul, as well as Peter, James, Thomas, Nathaniel – all the apostles with the exception of John- were martyred for their faith. These were followed by many of the other early church leaders who were violently deprived of physical life by those who disliked their message.
What is significant about these times is that the concept of truth is not part of the discussion. What matters is how people feel, and speaking frankly about what is right or wrong is offensive, so it is judged as being hateful. This is not unexpected. Jesus said that the time would come when, “Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Mt. 24:9b-11) .
Another noteworthy aspect of the present thinking is that even when people are open to discussion, many are far from truth. I recently listened to a man describing the closed mindedness of progressives. He had considered himself one until he saw how they would not tolerate any dissent from their thought processes. What little sanity he brought to the table was soon dispelled by his open homosexuality (he claimed to be a married gay man).
As I listened to this man, I was reminded of the 1960s when the student radicals were trying to destroy western civilization. In my activism for what I felt were traditional American ideals, I met some libertarians who were openly opposed to the Marxist bent of the students and with whom I felt some affinity. However when I went to one of their meetings, I discerned that the libertarians were no closer to the Christian truth than the socialists. When I confronted them with the claims of Jesus, I found the same resistance that I had felt from the radicals. I was not really welcome in their meeting. I discerned that they wanted things on their own terms without submitting to the truth as revealed by God.
We who are Christians cannot afford to be lax in our thinking regarding truth and right and wrong. Merely agreeing with someone that totalitarian progressives are wrong does not ensure that the person himself is speaking the truth. That is the trouble with present day issues. Deception runs wild and is in many forms. There is no substitute for testing the truth of any person, even when they seem to take sound positions on political or even moral issues. Decades ago S. D. Herron made a statement that is worth remembering today. “The unregenerate mind,” he said, “will have a twist somewhere.” Our touchstone is the Bible. God has spoken and we must test any truth claim by God’s word.
“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world1” (1 John 4:2, 3). Jesus Christ came in the flesh, died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again. He is the truth, and our way to God.
Without Him, there is no hope of salvation and without Him there is no truth. But with Him, the crooked things are straightened. Even the crooked thinking of perverse people can be straightened out when they find the truth that is in Jesus. Even the words love and hate return to their rightful meanings.
“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Heb. 1:8, 9).